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Time to End the Lost Afghan War
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Media reports claim President Donald Trump let loose on his generals behind closed doors, blasting them royally for their startling failures in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

The president has many faults and is a lousy judge of character. But he was absolutely right to read the riot act to the military brass for daring to ask for a very large troop and budget increase for the stalemated Afghan War that has cost $1 trillion to date.

Of course, the unfortunate generals are not really to blame. They have been forced by the last three presidents to fight a pointless war at the top of the world that lacks any strategy, reason or purpose – and with limited forces. But they can’t admit defeat by lightly-armed Muslim tribesmen.

The truth is, simply, that America blundered into the Afghan War under President George W. Bush who needed a target for revenge after the humiliating 9/11 attacks. Instead of blaming Saudi Arabia, a US protectorate which was clearly involved in the attacks, Bush went after remote but strategic Afghanistan and cooked up the Osama bin Laden bogeyman story.

Sixteen years later, the US is still chasing shadows in the Hindu Kush Mountains, rightly known to history as ‘Graveyard of Empires.’

The US invasion of Afghanistan was based on the unproven claim that anti-communist fighter Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. We have yet to see conclusive proof. What we have seen are phony documents and faked videos put out by bin Laden’s foes, the Afghan communists and their Northern Alliance drug-dealing allies.

As I’ve written in my books on South Asia, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ in Afghanistan were mostly bases for training anti-Indian Kashmiri liberation groups run by Pakistani intelligence. Claims by the right-wing US media that Afghanistan would become a jihadist base if the 9,800 US troops there now withdrew are nonsense. The 9/11 attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, Spain and Florida, not Afghanistan. They could have come from anywhere.

After sixteen years, the US military and its Afghan mercenaries troops have failed to defeat the Afghan Pashtun tribal resistance forces, Taliban. In fact, the Taliban alliance now controls at least half of Afghanistan and keeps US and government forces pinned down. The US installed ‘president,’ Ashraf Ghani, barely clings to power.

What keeps the US in control of parts of Afghanistan is the US Air Force and naval air power. US warplanes from Afghanistan, Qatar, and aircraft carriers keep a 24/7 combat air patrol over distant Afghanistan and can reply in minutes to attacks on US or Afghan ground units. No other nation could do this – or afford the immense cost.

Gasoline trucked into Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass from Karachi costs $400 per gallon delivered. The authoritative ‘Aviation Week’ magazine reports that keeping US warplanes on station over Iraq and Syria costs an astounding $600,000 per mission. It’s even more over Afghanistan.

But without 24/7 US airpower, US forces in Afghanistan would be soon isolated, then driven out. This is just what happened to the British and Soviets, dooming their efforts to crush the independence-loving Pashtun, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group.


Bereft of new ideas, the US keeps repeating its mistakes in Afghanistan: colluding with the worst, most corrupt elements of Afghan society; condoning torture and murder; relying on the big, drug dealing tribal chiefs.
The UN reports that opium (the base for heroin) exports doubled last year. The sputtering Afghan economy runs on opium and hashish.

The United States is now the proud owner of the world’s leading producer of opium and morphine base. If the drug trade is ever cut off, the government in Kabul and its warlords will collapse. Ironically, when Taliban ruled Afghanistan before 9/11, the drug trade was almost wiped out. But you will never read this in the tame US media.

Now America’s imperial generals are asking Trump for 4,000 more troops. A basic law of military science is concentration of force. Penny packets of troops are a fool’s strategy. The main function of US troops in Afghanistan is to protect the strategic Bagram and Kandahar air bases and US installations in Kabul.

Now, hard right Republicans are pushing a daft proposal to contract the Afghan War to a US-paid mercenary army led by an imperial viceroy in Kabul. Shades of Queen Victoria. Break out the pith helmets.

Trump has proposed pressuring Pakistan, India and China to end the war. What an absurd idea. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is its blood brother and strategic hinterland. China plans to turn mineral-rich Afghanistan into a Tibet-style protectorate. India wants to outflank Pakistan by taking over Afghanistan. India and China are in a growing military confrontation in the Himalayas.

Trump had better come up with a better idea. My solution to the 17-year war: emulate the example of the courageous Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. He pronounced his Afghan War unwinnable, told his angry generals to shut up, and ordered the Red Army out of the war in Afghanistan.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, American Military 
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  1. The war in Afghanistan should really be renamed the “fifth opium war”, after the two opium wars the British fought against imperial China in the 19th century, and the two Indochina wars, the French and the US, where the CIA took over the drug racket run by SDECE, the “French connection”.
    “We” will go on fighting in Afghanistan as long as the drug money keeps flowing into the CIA black budget. Draining the swamp, including the “deep state”, is a necessary precondition of stopping these senseless imperalist wars.

    • Agree: Carroll Price
  2. Gasoline trucked into Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass from Karachi costs $400 per gallon delivered. The authoritative ‘Aviation Week’ magazine reports that keeping US warplanes on station over Iraq and Syria costs an astounding $600,000 per mission. It’s even more over Afghanistan.

    To do this you need a machine that will print the world reserve currency in unlimited amounts on demand. The American Dollar is nearing the end of its tenure as the premier currency. When the dollar loses its mojo the U.S. will be just another big country in the Americas.

  3. The Soviets didn’t really lose in Afghanistan,. They controlled and administered the country far more effectively than NATO.

    If we hadn’t funded terrorists it would have probably become another backward but stable central/south asian state.

  4. Why, tell me why!!!??

    Why does every guy that writes a half way decent article have to trash on Trump at the beginning?

    The president has many faults and is a lousy judge of character.

    Oh, really? Like, exactly how is he a lousy judge of character, you name calling monkey!

    It’s you who is a bad judge of character. You impune your entire thought, your entire article, with this piece of repugnant, illiterate nonsense.

    Why would anyone read past that sentence, only the 2nd sentence in an 800-word essay?

    What kind of thinker would write something like that and then feature it like that?

    What kind of person would feel such a dire need to put in a disclaimer such as that?

    Eric? Are you afraid your friends or buddies, or peers or your mother will not like you if you do not bash Trump in front of every article you write?

    Why don’t you get a sign made and wear it on your front and back saying: hey I really hate Trump but I have something to say about him that isn’t that negative.

    Like they did in the 50s, Eric. I’m not a Communist but I went to a few meetings to see what they had to say about decent wages and workers’ rights. But I’m not a Communist. Please don’t blacklist me. I’m so afraid you will.

    This is a scared little boy move. It’s immature. It’s cowardly. And most important of all, it’s not even true.

    Ugh Ugh Ugh, like zombies in a George Romero flick, Trump Derangement Syndrome victims are everywhere you look!

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Anon
  5. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Ending Muslims from coming to America is a far better defense.

  6. dearieme says:

    “This is just what happened to the British and Soviets”: the British learned their lesson quickly. After one horrible defeat they used in-and-out punitive raids, which is of course what the US should have done in the first place. A war of occupation, with a side salad of drivel about nation building, was a stupid, stupid policy.

    The air war: “No other nation could do this ….”: very true.
    “… – or afford the immense cost”: the US can’t afford the cost either.

    Copy Gorbie? Good idea.

  7. long war profits no nation ~ sun tzu

  8. @anon

    Yes, obviously stopping Senegalese or Indonesians coming to Amerikastan would win the war in Afghanistan.

    (Eye roll emoticon)

  9. DB Cooper says:

    India wants to take over Afghanistan has more to just outflanking Pakistan. It has to do with its ‘Akhand Bharat’ ideology.

  10. You just don’t get it: This is what we do … it’s who we are!

  11. “Trump has proposed pressuring Pakistan, India and China to end the war. What an absurd idea. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is its blood brother and strategic hinterland. China plans to turn mineral-rich Afghanistan into a Tibet-style protectorate. India wants to outflank Pakistan by taking over Afghanistan.”

    From an American point of view, any of these outcomes is preferable to our continued involvement. If Pakistan takes over, we could link our aid to their governance there. If China takes it over, it becomes their problem and becomes another bargaining chip in Sino-American bilateral relations. If India takes it over (big long shot, given the proximity to Pakistan), they will suppress dissent a la Kashmir.

    Declaring defeat and leaving is clearly the best option for us. So of course, we won’t do it.

  12. Come on, Mr. Margolis. Do you believe that the Saudis were capable of doing 9/11 when they are unable to defeat a bunch of Houthi tribesmen? Do you think that they were able to hook up the Twin Towers and WTC No 7 to be taken down by controlled demolitions with nono termite? Why didn’t you spare a thought on a possible involvement of the Israeli Mossad? That Bin Laden didn’t have anything to do with these attacks knows every child by now. Not even the FBI accuses him of being the perpetrator, which means a lot.

    The US and its deranged allies should have left Afghanistan long ago, but they still have too much money to continue their adventurism. But at the end, they will leave defeated such as the Brits, the Soviets, and all other intruders. It’s a positive sign that even a developing country such as Afghanistan can beat the most powerful and aggressive nation on earth, the US.

    In the end, it was all for the birds, despite their bombastic rhetoric of freedom, democracy, gender mainstreaming, women’s rights and all the other niceties. Or was it just all about opium and drugs?

    • Replies: @Moi
    , @John Chuckman
  13. Moi says:
    @Ludwig Watzal

    Yup, when it comes to 9/11, we need to look closer to home and to a country which our “leaders” love more than their own.

  14. Ben Frank says:

    There was never any reason for the USA to fight in Afghanistan in the first place. Except “Well stupid Russia did it so we have to do it too.”
    Let’s evacuate as many of our allies as want to leave, to some suitable other country, and bring our boys home.
    The POTUS was elected to fix the mistakes of Bush II and of Obama, and this was one of the biggest.

  15. Fighting the wrong war is something like pouring concrete without a mold.

    There never was a purpose to the invasion of Afghanistan.

    The government of the day had nothing to do with 9/11.

    We do not even know for sure that bin Laden did.

    The US has never supplied a shred of real proof of his guilt.

    The Taleban are not terrorists, just a large tribal group of pretty backward customs and beliefs, not all that different to the ultra-orthodox in Israel.

    Invading them destabilized their society,killed a lot of people needlessly , and it released a hell of a lot of drugs onto world markets, the Taleban having previously pretty well stopped the growing of opium.

    America is still paying for that with all the cheap opioids on the world market now, as with high murder rates in some American cities.

    The invasion achieved nothing but a sense of vengeance for many Americans.

    It really is hard to believe the way America so worships its military and squanders such vast amounts of money on it.

    Almost everything done by the American military after WWII has been a disaster, apart from none of it having anything to do with defending the country.

    Every war has been a dirty colonial war, killing lots of people for nothing.

    And the truth is you have lost or mismanaged most of them.

    Lots of killing. Little achieved worth achieving.

  16. @Ludwig Watzal

    The “Saudis did it” is today’s cheap mantra on 9/11.

    It is strongly encouraged by politicians like New York’s Chuck Schumer.

    It is, of course, total nonsense.

    And I am surprised to read a man like Margolis in any way suggest this shopworn idea used to throw people off the scent.

  17. Trump thinks he can win where Alexander the Great failed.

    Not realistic.

  18. Anonymous [AKA "Vietvet68"] says:

    Bad judge of character…yup….Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Flynn, Ben Carson, Bannon, Reince, Scarymooch, KellyAnn, Putin, and many more that have quite or been fired. Then there is Don the Con himself…a liar…blowhard…divider…hater…con artist…attacks perceived enemies..just an all around moron. Your comments are devoid of facts and evidence to support your case the Don the Con is a great man of great character. Don the Con is going after Mueller…hides his taxes…lies about the Wall the Mexico will not pay for…screams whines on tweets that embarass our nation. Bullies people he feels are against him. He gives horrible political speech to Boy Scouts…brags about his election win…claims those who voted for HC were frauds with no proof…blames Obama for playing golf then goes a plays more golf than O did…insults our allies..kisses Putins ass…passes classified info to Russians…and on and on….My gosh if you were half awake you would see for yourself how inane and incompetent this doffus us. Impeach him….

  19. “The 9/11 attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, Spain and Florida”… Pure Hog Wash Eric Margolis, he knows full well it was Israel/USA operation planned long time ago. Eric is part of the Chosen tribe. He knows what would happened if he does not tow the bull sh it 911 line– Israel will cease to exist and he ever does squeal, he will rot in jail or worse never to be seen again or heard. He ain’t no Israel fool!

  20. Duglarri says:

    Hey Eric,

    All these years, and I keep hearing the “we’ve tried everything” mantra: counter-insurgency, nation-building, build and hold, surge, training… but every time a news story runs through the list of “all the things” that have been tried, one thing is left out, the one thing that has not been tried, to win this war.

    Switch sides.

    Why were the Taliban ever the enemy? What did they ever do to be excluded from political participation in the affairs of their own country, forever? When it is surely obvious by now that far more than a minority of the population support them? To the point that they will fight to the death for them against overwhelming firepower?

    Some day these people are going to run their own affairs.

    What has this whole war been if not a massive bait and switch: come for Al Queda, stay for the Taliban?

    The Taliban hosted Al Queda, mainly because of ancient Afghan customs of hospitality. Al Queda based some operations there. Is that justification to prevent them from running their own affairs- forever? Did we do that to Germany, or Florida, both of which arguably did more to host the 9/11 conspirators?

    And what makes this particular group of religiously motivated actors unacceptable compared to, say, Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia is an ally. Are the Taliban worse than them? It’s seems hard to imagine.

    The way to win this war is simple. Stop fighting the Taliban.

    Switch sides.

  21. Halit says:

    Waisting time in Afghanistan and only help Afghans landlords and ruling Alkaida and others using local uneducated young man to blow up themselves for promised haven and Alkaida gets the money,power and glory.
    Why on earth Americans still staying in Afghanistan nobody understands.
    Again,nobody understands how come George.W.Bush elected twice President,and what he was thinking when September 11 occured and why he was looking empty spaces? What was displayed was ignorant President or Monkey was having difficulty to remember how to play cricket? We newer know.

  22. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    I noticed that too, they all do this. Tucker Carlson does it nightly.

  23. DanC says:

    > Why were the Taliban ever the enemy?

    The Taliban made the fatal mistake of shutting down poppy farming and opium production.

    You don’t cut off one of the CIA’s major sources of off-the-books funding without there being major repercussions.

  24. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Margolis is right. End the Afghan war and bring the troops home. Lets also stop all Muslim immigration too. No Muslims to fight over there or over here.

  25. Anonymous [AKA "radarpoker"] says: • Website

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